Evacuation orders lifted in Littleton after natural gas line break near C-470 sealed off

LITTLETON, Colo. - A contractor boring into the right-of-way along C-470 near South Platte Canyon Road punctured a 20-inch gas main Thursday, sending a plume of rocks, dirt and natural gas skyward.

The thick, acrid gas enveloped the Milbrook and Columbine Hills neighborhoods.

“It was so strong,” said Kay Ostoff, co-owner of Schneid’s Smoke Shop. “I mean it burned your yes.  You could taste it.  And the film in the air was pretty atrocious.”

“It looked like a fog bank,” said Kevin Schneider. “I didn’t know it was gas at first.  I’ve never seen it like that before.”

Emergency crews began evacuating nearby homes and businesses.

Reverse notifications went to 2,500 residents in an area from Wadsworth Boulevard to So. Platte Canyon Road, and from Ken Caryl Avenue to Chatfield Avenue.

“I smelled a lot of gas,” said Denise Gentilini. “I went down to the basement because I thought maybe the pilot light was out.”

Gentilini said she didn’t realize the problem wasn’t in her house until she opened the front door.

“It was intense.”

Littleton Fire Rescue Division Chief Doug Ireland said the decision to evacuate was two-fold.

“You’ve always got an explosive component,” Ireland said. “There’s also an asphyxiant.  So if somebody is in the area and they breathe too much, it displaces the oxygen and can cause somebody to have breathing problems.”

Work crews were able to shut off the gas and evacuation orders were lifted at 11:45 a.m.

The 20-inch main provides gas to Climax Molybdenum’s Henderson Mine in Empire.

Eric Kinneberg, the director of external communications for parent company, Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, told 7NEWS that the damage to the gas main disrupted natural gas service to the mine which uses the gas for heating air in the mine’s ventilation system.

“An adjustment in the ventilation system has been made as a result, therefore, mining operations at Henderson have been temporarily suspended until the ventilation system is fully restored,” Kinneberg said.

Excel Energy crews spent much of the afternoon Thursday digging down to the gas line.

Company spokesman Gabriel Romero said if it’s a small breach it won’t take much time.

“If there’s a large hole in the line, it will take more time,” he said.

When asked if the company boring for the fiber optic line called ahead of time to ask about the location of the gas line, Romero said, “I can’t comment on that.”

But Romero did say that 99-percent of the gas line breaks they deal with are because customers or contractors were digging without asking about line locations.kay ost

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